Monday, September 26, 2005

Melancholy Monday: Emotional Overload

A little over a year and a half ago, 4 friends of mine were driving in my friend Ethan’s car on their way to get some breakfast on a Saturday morning. The scene plays in my head like a movie, the four boys, laughing and carrying on, speeding along the wet, country road close to our former high school. The car spun out of control, going 40 mph over the speed limit, flipped over, and crashed into a tree. The boys were pinned there for hours while rescue workers tried to get them out of the mangled car. Two of the boys, including Ethan (the driver) walked away from the accident, one of the boys broke his neck and was paralyzed from the neck down, and the other died before he could be extracted from the vehicle.

Ethan was charged with vehicular homicide after a jury heard testimonies from the other two boys who claimed that they were screaming for him to slow down, and let them out of the car. The picture that that sentence paints haunts me….. they were screaming for him to slow down. I was so angry with Ethan, and perhaps unjustifiably so, perhaps he was the convenient scapegoat that I used to release my anger and frustration upon. But just the thought of seeing Ethan after that made my stomach churn, my anger and pain was real, whether or not it was projected in the right direction.

I went home this past weekend, for what I thought was going to be a much needed break for work, a time to sit around, watch TV, and relax. I wasn’t home for more than an hour when the phone rang, an old friend called explaining that Ethan had died the night before from a relapse of leukemia. What’s bothering me most is that I can’t seem to pinpoint my emotions about it. In the most convenient definition of things, I feel conflicted. Had the accident never occurred I would be mourning the tragic loss of a friend, and yet the accident did happen, he was to blame, and I don’t know if I’m particularly sad about his death now, as heartless as that sounds. I don’t know if I can find it within me to cry, or to face his family at the services and tell them how sorry I am, when in all honesty I’m not. There was a time when I did feel sorry for Ethan, I thought how hard it must be to live with the fact that you walked away from such a horrific accident, when your friends did not. And yet, those feelings are overshadowed for me right now. And they’re mainly overshadowed by that image of those boys screaming to let them out of the car. Everyone has always been screaming for Ethan to slow down. He considered himself invincible, and lived his life believing that the rules did not apply to him. He drank too much, hit too hard, and drove too fast, always seemingly tempting fate at every turn….. and it seemed like fate caught up with him in the past year. I know that sounds uncharacteristically callous for those of you who know me. Deep down, I know that the anger isn’t real; I know that it was never really about being angry with Ethan, but more about using anger as a veil to hide my own prison of pain that I didn't want anyone to see. And yet I can’t seem to clear the hurdle of being angry to get myself to a place where I can begin to grieve. I know that I’ll get there, in a few days the underlying emotions will catch up with me, and I’ll finally be able to cry. But for now I’m trying to hold onto the anger as long as I can, because once the anger wears thin, and the emotional tidal wave hits, I’ll be forced to deal with the harsh reality that come with burying another friend.